• Steve Mann

Diabetic-Friendly Snacks, Do they Really Exist?

Food, glorious food! What is there more handsome?

There are a lot of posts on diabetic-friendly snacks. After all, the diabetic diet can be constraining at times and we want to break out.. .break free, feel free... get what I mean? There are a lot of ideas out there. Some of them really good such as 14 Diabetes-friendly grab-and-go Snacks for People on the go - which most times includes Type 1 Diabetics. Or the the 21 Best Snack Ideas If You Have Diabetes . All seemingly reasonable recommendations.

But as Emeril Lagasse would say...

"Bam! Let's take it up a notch."

I love snacking. I grew up in a grazing household. That is, I used to find my father taking inventory of the refrigerator. I had no problem with that except that inventory was being taken at 11PM He had his head so deep inside the fridge that I was worried I'd forget what he looked like.

All of these great snacking ideas for folks with diabetes are great except they don't factor in lifestyle - the adjustments that need to made regarding, insulin dosage and timing, exercise plans or rest of day planning. It seems that it would be better if we didn't snack. But in my case, and most likely yours, goes against our genetic dispositions.

So, if you're like me and the diabetes lifestyle never quite beat the snack out of you have to as yourself...

...Am I really hungry?

As a Diabetes Health Coach, working with many who have Type 1 Diabetes, I tell clients that the best thing you can do around snacking is make sure you are truly hungry. Ask yourself:

  1. Do you feel hungry in your gut?

  2. Are they hunger pangs or just a desire to eat?

  3. Does your stomach feel empty?

  4. Is your tummy rumbling?

Or do you feel your hunger somewhere else? Are you bored? Also, if you crave a particular food and won’t eat unless you can have it, you’re likely experiencing a psychological craving — not actual hunger. True physical hunger, especially if you reach a point of urgent hunger, is much less discriminating.

Assuming you are experiencing true hunger, here's an approach to snacking that's eminently doable - that is -- tasty, satisfying and easy management of blood sugar (BG).

Eat Low Glycemic Index/Load Foods

The Glycemic Index is a measurement system that ranks foods according to the rates on which they raise your blood sugar. The rates at which different foods raise blood sugar levels are ranked in comparison with the absorption of 50 grams of pure glucose. Pure glucose is used as a reference food and has a GI value of 100. You also won't need as much insulin to cover low GI foods.

The Glycemic Load is another good measure of what carbs to eat. It focuses on how much a given carb will raise your blood sugar per a set amount eaten.

Both the GI, the GL have three classifications, simply low, medium and high.

Veggies/Hummus. I'm not a 'Don't mess with the Zohan' hummus lover but a good hummus is hard to beat. Hummus, traditionally made of chickpeas, olive oil, and sesame seed paste (tahini), is rich in heart-healthy fats, protein, and complex carbs. Pair a couple tablespoons of it with crunchy, high-fiber veggies like cucumbers, carrots, or celery. One tablespoon of hummus has about 21g of carb.

Apples and nut butter. Apples with the skin left on are a good source of fiber. Pair your favorite kind with a couple tablespoons of natural nut or seed butter. Avoid any nut butter with a lengthy ingredient list -- it may contain added sugars or oils that are not heart-healthy. The ingredients should be as simple as possible -- just nuts or seeds and salt. Apples have both a low glycemic index AND a low glycemic load. Depending on size, they will have between 20-25g of carb. Check the nut butter nutrition label. You may need to take insulin for both.

Tuna fish and whole-grain crackers. Canned tuna is an inexpensive way to get in a dose of protein with the added benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Lighten up traditional tuna salad by replacing calorie-dense mayo with low fat may. Or squeeze fresh lemon juice on your tuna and add freshly cracked pepper. Serve on high-fiber, whole-grain crackers for a good mix of complex carbs, healthy fats, and filling protein. One serving (6 crackers) of Triscuits -- I like the Rosemary and Olive oil. -- has 20g of carbs.

Homemade energy bars. Many seemingly healthy bars on store shelves rack up as many grams of added sugar as a typical candy bar, or they have long lists of processed ingredients. Make your own by mixing nuts, dried fruits, or oats. Look for bar recipes that don't contain added thickeners, sweeteners, or processed protein powders. And, make sure to keep track of carbs per bar and what type of carb.

Some other favorites include:

  • Raw nuts but watch the fat intake from nuts like cashews or macadamias - almonds are preferred

  • Cheese - recommend low fat

  • Berries with yogurt

  • Hard boiled eggs

  • Chia seed pudding

Despite nutritionists and dietitians advising against snacking - For myself it's "snack away!" But do it smartly and with the same level of rigor as you would if eating a meal. Make sure you are snacking in line with your total daily carb intake goals And as always, check with your healthcare professional before making changes to your diabetes management regimen. I've created an Glycemic Load Tip Sheet to help make healthy and diabetic-friendly choices.


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